Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges of rape and sexual assault in the first cases involving the disgraced producer to be tested in criminal court since scores of accusers emerged last year, his lawyer said.
Weinstein, 66, entered his plea in Manhattan Supreme Court on Tuesday morning after a grand jury indicted him last week in two cases.
Weinstein left the court without speaking to reporters. Defence attorney Benjamin Brafman confirmed that his client had pleaded not guilty.
“Mr Weinstein has denied these crimes. He has never engaged in nonconsensual sex with anyone,” Brafman told reporters. “Rape is a reprehensible crime. It is equally reprehensible to be falsely accused of rape. In his view, he has been falsely accused of rape.”
Weinstein turned himself in at a New York police station on May 25, and was taken to court in handcuffs for his initial arraignment. A judge ordered him released on a $1 million cash bail on condition that he surrender his US passport and agree to wear a location-tracking device. He was ordered to remain in New York state or Connecticut.
More than 70 women have accused Weinstein, the co-founder of the Miramax film studio and TheWeinstein Co, of sexual misconduct, including rape, with some allegations dating back decades, all of which he has denied.
The accusations, first reported by the New York Times and the New Yorker last year, gave rise to the #MeToo movement, in which hundreds of women have publicly accused powerful men in business, government and entertainment of misconduct.
Prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office did not name the two women accusing Weinstein of sexual assault in the criminal complaint filed against him following a months-long investigation with the New York Police Department.
The details of one of the cases closely align with the account of Lucia Evans, a former aspiring actress who told the New Yorker that Weinstein forced her to give him oral sex in 2004.
If convicted on the most serious charges, Weinstein could face between five and 25 years in prison.
Once a fixture of elite Manhattan and Los Angeles society, Weinstein has been ostracised since the accusations became public. He went to Arizona for sex addiction therapy.
The Weinstein Co’s board fired him, the company filed for bankruptcy in March, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expelled him. In years past, the Academy had showered him with Oscars for a string of films that helped define independent cinema in the 1990s, including Shakespeare in Love and Pulp Fiction.
London’s Metropolitan Police and Los Angeles prosecutors have said they are reviewing accusations of sexual assault against him.